Batman and Robin. Lucy and Ricky. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. UX Designers and Project Managers. What do they all have in common? Great collaboration.
Great work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It can’t. It needs the catalyst of opposing energies to move forward. As UX/UI Designers, we’re charged with creating and executing a shared product vision.
UX Designers and Project Managers
To protect that vision and best serve our clients, we often need a trusted partner to work with us. Someone who keeps an eye on the big picture so we can focus on the details. Someone who’ll occasionally remind us to stay on schedule. That someone is a digital project manager.
Like Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, strong UX/UI Designers and Project Managers make an unstoppable pair. But why is it so hard to find this magic combination? What makes it so rare?
Good Project Managers Are Too Busy
Good project managers are very hard to find, and the really good ones usually have too many projects on their plates. That means they can’t get in the weeds with you since they are already stretched so thin.
It’s the rare PM who has the time and attention to know all the details as well as you do. But they won’t need to if you have a good working relationship and do your part to keep things on track.
Great Project Managers Understand Politics
The best project managers not only keep things on time and on budget. They are strong leaders who know the people and politics behind every project. Well-connected and confident in their interpersonal skills, these project managers have a deep understanding around the human side of getting things done.
They’re not afraid to raise issues. They’ll easily pick up the phone or hold an impromptu meeting to clear out any roadblocks. They do what it takes to move forward.
Good Project Managers Are Expensive
At many agencies the role of digital project manager has been diminished over the last decade to that of an order taker charged with scheduling meetings and doing basic accounting tasks. These relatively low-level responsibilities don’t require much experience, and therefore aren’t paid very well.
On the other hand, someone who knows what it takes to integrate multiple front and back-end systems, negotiate contracts, change requests and other agreements, run meetings like clockwork and resolve conflicts is worth their weight in gold. These people expect compensation that matches their hard-won experience.
No One Knows The Project As Well As You Do
No matter how great your PM is, he or she will never know the project nearly as well as you do. That’s because you’re doing the deep work – the research, the design, connecting the dots, identifying issues, etc. You have a unique vantage point when it comes to understanding all the nuances on a given project.
This is the opposing energy that makes you equally valuable to your project manager. While they will know a lot about your project, it’s up to you to make them aware of any issues that arise.
Good Communication Needs Close Attention
As technology permeates almost every part of our lives, it seems like everyone’s attention span is getting shorter by the minute. In fact, goldfish have longer attention spans than most humans. If you’ve read this far you’re one of the few who actually do, so thanks.
Digital projects are often very complex and require close attention to detail. Getting two or more people to pay that kind of ongoing attention and communicate clearly requires a great deal of time and energy. This is particularly hard to find when matching up designers and project managers.
Building Trust Takes Time
Most importantly, great relationships take time. If you’ve worked with a strong project manager in the past, what made it work? Your current working relationship probably didn’t happen immediately. How did you establish and build trust over time?
What made the difference between that person and other people you’ve worked with? How can you find that again in the future? Leave your thoughts in comments below.